While it might take you years to search millions of pictures in search of one, reverse search engines can perform this feat in seconds. Reverse image search engines aren't perfect, but they can often find the image you're looking for using a picture you already have. This technology isn't new; people have used it for years to look for image plagiarism on the Web or to locate larger versions of an image.
Find It on Google
Like a mighty digital river, Google transports a seemingly infinite stream of images across the Web. Search its vast pool of pictures by clicking the Search by Image camera icon on the images.google.com screen to view the Search by Image dialog window. Click “Upload an Image” followed by “Choose File” and select a picture from your hard drive. If your picture resides on the Web, enter its URL in the Search by Image dialog box to search for it. Google returns results that may include links to websites that contain your image and thumbnails of pictures that look similar to yours. Click a thumbnail and then click “View Image” to view the actual picture. If you see a “Visit Page” link, click it to visit the page that hosts the image. Google stores all images and URLs that you upload to its servers.
Harness the Search Power of Bing
Bing’s blog begins with an enticing headline that reads “Find It Faster with Image Match.” Image Match, Bing’s answer to Google’s image search, also scours the Web searching for pictures. Visit Bing’s image site at bing.com/images and click “Image Match” to view the Image Match dialog window. Paste the URL of an image in the “Paste Image URL” text box or click “Upload an Image” and select a file from your hard drive. If Bing finds copies of your picture, it displays them. It may also return various sizes of the image. Click one of those sizes to view your picture at that size.
Use TinEye Image Search Technology
Idee Inc., an image software company, produced TinEye, the first search engine capable of performing reverse image searches. Visiting the TInEye website, click "Browse" and select an image from your hard drive. If the site finds copies of your picture, it displays them along with their file sizes and sites where the images reside. Click a picture to view it or click a website link to visit the hosting site. TinEye only stores your searches for 72 hours. If you’d like the site to retain your search history, click the “Register” link at the top of the page and follow the instructions to set up a free account.
Get Help From Friends and Strangers
The power of the Web comes into full play when you use this powerful tool to find digital needles in haystacks. Post your picture on Facebook, tweet it on Twitter, upload it to Tumblr or share it on any social media network to increase its exposure. Because so many people visit these sites, a follower or total stranger may recognize your picture and tell you where to find it. If you can't post your picture on a site or forum, upload it to a free hosting service such as Photobucket or Tinypic. Copy the URL those services give you and post it on any website, blog or forum.
Additional Image Search Tips
You can also search for an image at Google by dragging a picture from your computer or a Web page onto the search box. Install the Google Search extension for Chrome or Firefox, and you can right-click a Web image to initiate a search. As Google notes, you’ll have better luck finding an image “likely to show up in other places on the Web.” You'll find a picture of a celebrity or national landmark easier than one of a friend. You can enter search terms in the Google and Bing search box. For example, if you enter "sandy beach," the search engines return images of sandy beaches.
- Photo Credit AmmentorpDK/iStock/Getty Images
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